Monday, March 4, 2024
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Lango Clan Chief Promotes Cocoa

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Patrick Okino

Frederick Ogwal Oyee, the Chief of Inomo Clan in Lango sub-region is engaged in promoting cocoa growing in the sub-region, a perennial crop grown in other parts of the country.

In his 10-acre farm in Rego-Rego, Amwoma Sub-County, Ogwal Oyee has over 2000 cocoa trees intercropped with other crops such as pineapple, bananas and citrus fruits among other value market-oriented crops.

He says during his humanitarian service with the World Food Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it gave him the opportunity to travel and work in different parts of the world, including West African countries where cocoa is grown commercially.

He had no idea that the plant could thrive in his home area of Lango but after reading different literature, he came to know cocoa was being grown in Uganda; specifically in Bundibugyo and some districts in the western part of the country.

“The weather conditions, altitude, temperature and soil among other things in those places are not any different from ours in Lango,” he says.   

He said the growing of the perennial crop pushed him to even read more about it with the ultimate objective of knowing whether he could plant the crop in his farm alongside other crops.

“I wanted to venture so much into mixed farming, with cocoa as the main retirement component of my farm because of the promises it offers,” he says.

He adds he looked at opportunities to earn either by selling fresh or dry beans, stable and increasing prices in both the local and international markets.

“Meaning one can still sell locally and fetch good money and, the duration it takes while harvesting, it is a lifetime and generational plant,” he says.

He says the farm has two varieties; Trinitario and Forestario and according to him, the varieties adapted well in Africa.

A staff at housing finance Banking, Lira branch touring Ogwal`s cocoa farm in Dokolo

Planting cocoa

When planting cocoa, the spacing from one stem to another should be 3×3 meters and the hole for planting the seedling should be 2ft wide and 2ft deep and filled with compost manure.

The hole should be wide and deep enough to hold the root of the growing cocoa plant. The crop can also be established under forests by thinning the forest to desirable shade levels.

Injects Shs10 million

Hesays he injected Uganda Sh10 million in preparing the fields, procuring seedlings, planting and weeding in the first year of the project.

He says according to expert calculations, he is expecting to earn about Shs100 million in the first year of harvest.

“It will contribute to the realization of my main objective of coming back home to serve the sub-region and the country through venturing into businesses that create jobs for the youth, ” he adds.

He says he is currently employing over 30 people in his two main business ventures; Rego Rego farm in Dokolo district and Lira Palm Gardens Hotel in Lira City – the hotel that currently provides much of the market for fresh food and fruits harvested from his farm.

According to agricultural experts, Uganda produces 44.7 metric tonnes which fetched the country revenue of $105.8m in 2021.

Set for 500,000 seedlings

Solomon Adim, Ogwal`s son says regardless of the small size of the farm, they believe in leading by example not might.

He says they want to do something small to encourage smallholder farmers to pick interest in doing the same.

“Our vision toward promoting cocoa growing is to encourage and see every household in Lango, Acholi, Kumam and parts of Teso sub-regions dedicating at least one acre piece of land to plant cocoa.

He says they are establishing a nursery bed to raise over 500000 cocoa tree seedlings which will be ready for transplanting by April 2024 at the onset of the first season rains.

He encourages smallholder farmers interested in planting cocoa to start preparing the field so that they are ready by the first rain.

Challenges

One of the major challenges according to Ogwal is lack of technical support, disease management and postharvest handling.

“One of the biggest needs we have at the moment is the presence of agricultural extension workers because if we get some disease outbreak, the experience to handle them may be lacking,” he says.

He also says his worry is that after many farmers picking interest and engaging in growing, the prices could drop due to poor quality beans resulting from poor post-harvest handling and poor marketing strategies.

He also says the government has a role to play to shield cocoa farmers from middlemen and speculators who will infiltrate the business and disorganize its farming and trade.

Peter Okullo, one of the farmers engaged in growing the crop says the area is suitable for cocoa growing but the missing link is also access to extension services.

Okullo says he is currently raising 100,000 seedlings of the crop to be sold to farmers willing to take up the growing of the enterprise.

According to agricultural experts, the crop takes two and half years to start fruiting and can be harvested twice a year where, in an acre, a farmer can earn up to Sh13million in return annually.   

Okullo says there is no post-harvest handling skills and they are trying hire consultant and offer such services.  

“The growing of the crops are picking up in the sub region but originally people had no interest but when they saw tangible things coming out of it. The demand to growing started increasing,” he says.

He says there is ready market for the produce but the production is still very poor.

“By next year our production will hit a record and we shall be in the map as one of the areas where cocoa growing is picking up very fast,” he said.

Recently, the Lira district agricultural officer, Dorcas Alum said a number of farmers are picking interest in the crop unlike in the past.

She says people took a long time to adopt cocoa growing because they only believed in traditional crops such as maize, millet, beans and sorghum but now it’s changing since it has become a lucrative business.

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